“We are Punk Rock, honey, and we’re not gonna compromise for anything!”
Thanks to Craig Stitchcomb for unearthing this “crappy cassette” tape of a May 8, 1980 Judie’s Fixation show at the Marble Bar. The former Judie’s Fixation drummer recently located this three-track rarity and enlisted the salvaging skills of Henry N. Cross, who then uploaded the analog audio to Soundcloud (www.soundcloud.com) for the digitized masses of the world to enjoy. The songs are “Judy in the Alley” (a ditty that tries to sneak “Long Tall Sally” through the Judies’ alley), “Kryptonite,” and “Punk Rock Honey,” the latter a sound-check rap by singer Vaughn Keith (aka “Ben Wah”) discussing a gig at Severna Park High School that emphasizes “We are punk rock, honey, and we’re not gonna compromise for anything!”
“Our manager ‘Big C’ recorded this on one of those little cassette recorders using the equally crappy microphone that came with them,” recalls Stitchcomb. “I think what Henry salvaged from that source is nothing short of miraculous.”
Got that right. Especially since, to date, the Judie’s Fixation discography consists of a lone song, “Martyr Me,” that is only available on two compilation albums, 1978’s extremely rare local sampler LP, :30 Over D.C.~~Here Comes The New Wave! (Limp Records) and Hyped To Death Records’ Hyped To Death #22: US and Canadian LP Punk R-Z (though how Judies Fixation ends up being alphabetized with bands named R through Z remains a mystery!).
Which is a real shame, because these guys were tight and tough (especially thanks to their unpredictable singer who would jump into crowds and open beer cans with his teeth!), with a setlist of good rockin’ tunes. “Kryptonite” (not to be confused with a song of the same title by 3 Doors Down) was a highlight of their set and I’m glad it finally has been recovered from sonic obscurity, being one of the best Comic Book Superhero-referencing rock tunes (a long list that includes R.E.M.’s “Superman,” The Kinks’ “Wish I Could Fly Like Superman,” Macca & Wings’ “Magento and Titanium Man,” Suicide’s “Ghost Rider,” Dukes of Stratosphere’s “Brainiac’s Daughter,” and locally ’80s Baltimore pop quartet Boy Meets Girl’s “The Girl With X-Ray Vision”). Before the song, Vaughn intones “Klaatu barada nikto” and dedicates it to all DC comics lovers. You can also hear him say “Hello, tENT” (a shout-out to tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE?). The band clearly know their Superman lore, with Vaughn referencing the mysterious radioactive rock in all its various hues (red, green, white, etc.).
Green or red or white
There is no Kryptonite tonight
Look at me, am I not Bizarro?
Awkward today, but awesome tomorrow
There is no rock that can hurt me!”
– Judies Fixation
And back when I played drums for Thee Katatonix, I especially enjoyed their cover of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” in which Vaughn changed the lyrics into a shout-out to other Marble Bar bands: “Do you like good music? (Yeah Yeah)/Like Da Moronics? (Yeah Yeah)/And Thee Katatonix? (Yeah Yeah).”
Judie’s Fixation was the best band I encountered when I first starting going to the Marble Bar in 1979, both musically and aesthetically with their wonderful fliers (which often re-purposed Silver age comic covers such as “Mystery in Space” and “Detective Comics”; additionally, Stitchcomb drew a number of original fliers).
The Annapolis-based band’s ranks included charismatic frontman Vaughn Keith (“Ben Wah”), drummer Craig Stitchcomb (aka “Dick Goesinya,” “Jacques Strap”), bassist-turned-guitarist Bill Sutherland (aka “Brian Jones,” “Lumpy”), and bassist Wayne Murphy (G.C. Murphy). Sutherland took over guitar duties when original guitarist Bill Smith (Bill Bored?) left the band (he later died from a heart attack). Subsequent bassists included Henry Cross and Jay Turner. Shortly thereafter, Tim Campbell (aka “Fido Fetch,” “Phideaux Phelch”) joined as lead guitarist (see his recollections here), though I mostly remember them playing as four-piece ensemble.
Vaughn Keith’s tragic 2006 death from AIDS made the news in the New Yorker, where he was fondly remembered by music critic Alex Ross:
Quo usque tandem abutere
On World AIDS Day, I’d like to remember my high school Latin teacher, the fierce Vaughn Keith, who was also the lead singer of the obscurely famous DC [sic] punk band Judie’s Fixation. Their hard-hitting anthem “Martyr Me” can be found on the 1978 compilation :30 Seconds Over DC. It holds up.
It sure does.
Sutherland and Campbell would later play in The Monuments, whose early ’80s lineups featured Russell Stone on guitar, Jay Turner on bass, Cindy Borschardt on vocals, and an assortment of drummers. Jim Moon has a ton of great Judies Fixation and Monuments photos (not to mention Slickee Boys and other notable Marble Bar acts) from that period in his Jack of Hearts Flickr albums. (Moonie’s a real camera pro and his pics provide the best, and in some cases the only, archival record of many of the bands that played the Marble Bar, Galaxy Ballroom, Trenton Street Station/Parrot Club circuit.
In his band post for Richard Taylor’s The Marble Bar Documentary, Tim Campbell described the evolution of Judie’s opening act, Oral Fixation: “A bunch of carpenters we knew from Annapolis got so inspired by us that they cut out plywood guitars and sang all the instruments parts into a tape recorder. They called themselves the Oral Fixation and used to open for us. Over time they slowly mutated into the Motor Morons. Craig Stinchcolmb from Judie’s plays drums with them.”
Judie’s Fixation’s manager was Frank Yates, better known as “Big C,” a larger-than-life character whom Campbell described as “a huge red-haired, one-eyed, manic depressive who helped contribute to the constant chaos surrounding Judies.” Yates passed away June 25, 2014 (see obit here).
The Judies were a great, energetic band – and the pride of Annapolis! Along with Baltimore’s Da Moronics and DC’s Slickee Boys, they ruled the roost at the Marble Bar in the late ’70s and early ’80s. So please, Craig Stinchcomb, try to dig up more of these blasts from the Fixation’s glorious past!
P.S.: Here’s a video I posted of the Judies performing “Judie In the Alley” and “Kryptonite” live at the Marble Bar using Jim Moon and Colin Varga’s great photos of the band: